Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Strategic Adjustment and the Rise of ChinaPower and Politics in East Asia$

Robert S. Ross

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781501709180

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501709180.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM Cornell University Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.cornell.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Cornell University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in Cornell for personal use.  Subscriber: null; date: 27 June 2022

Domestic Politics and Nationalism in East Asian Security

Domestic Politics and Nationalism in East Asian Security

(p.15) Chapter 1 Domestic Politics and Nationalism in East Asian Security
Strategic Adjustment and the Rise of China

Randall L. Schweller

Cornell University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter works within the neoclassical realist tradition to examine the role of nationalism in foreign policymaking and the implication for the international politics of East Asia. Whereas the rise of China is an important structural factor necessarily affecting states' security policies throughout East Asia, China's rise does not determine these states' security policies. Rather, domestic politics ultimately determines how a state responds to changing security circumstances. In particular, nationalism can drive states to adopt more belligerent policies than warranted by their strategic environment, thus contributing to heightened bilateral conflicts and regional tension. The chapter argues that, in contemporary East Asia, rising China sets the context of policymaking, but domestic politics has been the primary factor shaping policy.

Keywords:   neoclassical realism, East Asia, nationalism, foreign policymaking, China, international politics, bilateral conflicts, domestic politics

A world in transition is a deeply uncertain one for both structural and motivational reasons. Emergent systems tend to encounter destabilizing and unpredictable power shifts among the system’s most powerful actors; they also experience changing state motivations associated with relative power positions in flux.1 Regarding intentions, even if a reasonable amount of certainty could be achieved regarding the present motivations of the rising powers (in today’s world, China, India, and—though stumbling of late—Brazil) and those of the incumbents (the European Union, Japan, and the United States), there is no guarantee that current intentions will remain stable over time. Just as we expect people who go from rags to riches (or vice versa) to change their ambitions, rising and declining powers can be expected to expand or contract their goals as power reshuffles at the top of the international pecking order.

Both kinds of uncertainty—structural uncertainty about the global distribution of capabilities and motivational uncertainty about the goals of rising and established major powers—spring from the taproot of domestic politics. In contemporary East Asia, the rise of China and the emerging transformation of the regional security order have contributed to significant uncertainty and policy instability. But structural uncertainty and the trajectory of a state’s power also crucially depend on the kinds of strategies its leaders embrace to mobilize resources (financial, productive, and human) for purposes of national security and economic growth. There is a long tradition within international relations (IR) scholarship of taking into account (p.16) domestic as well as material factors in the specification of national power. Kenneth Waltz himself includes political stability and competence in his list of key capabilities that determine national rankings within the global hierarchy of power.2

In terms of motivational uncertainty, variance in state preferences across time and space has long been attributed to domestic politics. Even the purest of systemic theories acknowledge a range of state goals and policies. Sometimes these divergences are explained through reference to system structure: states differently situated within the international system hold dissimilar aims and respond differently to comparable external incentives. Among similarly situated states, however, differences in states’ goals and responses to external cues are explained not by international structure but rather by domestic politics. Specifically, national political processes serve as “imperfect” transmission belts (intervening variables) that introduce deviations (residual variance) from the predictions of systemic theory regarding rational responses to external constraints and opportunities.3 East Asian states are subject to structural constraints and shifting distribution of capabilities, but—as the various contributions to this volume point out—their responses to the rise of China differ.

Theories of domestic politics locate the determinants of foreign policy behavior and the national interest within the state itself. They are typically stories about how internal social and political pressures hold sway over the administrative and decision-making apparatuses of the state, causing a variety of state actions and goals that may or may not be responses to external stimuli. Variation in state goals is also a consequence of how elites frame national interests and demands in different ways for different audiences.4

Domestic politics are particularly salient in a changing world. This is because the political environments that develop during global transitions are populated and defined by emerging powers that, though expected to show competitive international faces, are more inward-looking, if not wholly distracted by domestic politics, than outwardly focused. After all, sudden and dramatic national growth induces massive social and political dislocations. As a nation grows, therefore, it becomes increasingly essential for its leaders, continuously mediating between their national societies and the international economy, to periodically recalibrate the balance between citizens, (p.17) states, and markets as they simultaneously encourage stable and sustained growth.5

We see the primacy of domestic politics in the present world transformation—one driven largely by developments in the political landscape of East Asia, which is being fashioned largely by the domestic politics of the major regional players. Consider the politics of China as it tries to manage the international challenges of its rise. Since late 2012 it has experienced a once-in-a-decade leadership transition, slowing growth, and a show trial that sentenced one of the country’s best-known political personalities, Bo Xilai, to life imprisonment.6 China’s leaders understand that they must initiate sweeping domestic reforms to tackle three key internally generated problems: corruption, debt, and pollution.

Japan, for its part, has seen its politics stirred by resurgent nationalism in recent years, partly as a response to China’s rise and growing assertiveness. Led since 2012 by an overtly nationalist prime minister, Shinzo Abe, Japan has pursued a far more assertive, nationalist foreign policy—one that persistently stokes patriotic fervor, expresses hawkish pride in Japan’s national strength, and argues that the country has behaved no differently from any other colonial power in the last century.7 Predictably, Japan’s relations with its neighbors, especially China and South Korea, have deteriorated. In addition, Japan, like China, faces serious internal challenges that must be dealt with in the coming years. Most important, Japan is the “grayest” country in the history of the earth. Its workforce is barely over 50 percent of its population, and these workers must not only support themselves and their children but also Japan’s retirees, who comprise a whopping 40 percent of the country’s population. The author Bill Emmott got it right back in 1989, when he noted of Japanese economic power that the sun also sets.8

Meanwhile, the United States is trying to reconcile its desire to preserve American hegemony in the face of a rising China and dangerously high national debt, a war-weary public, and dwindling domestic support for anything international, much less foreign entanglements—all of which has forced the administration of President Barack Obama to develop a low-cost model for U.S. global management. In practice this means relying on (p.18) economic sanctions to punish enemies, targeting terrorists with drones, fighting wars with robots and computerized weapons, avoiding unilateralism in favor of “leading from behind,” and pivoting to Asia within an overall grand strategy of “selective engagement” and balancing China.9 It also means lots of setbacks for valued U.S. foreign policy projects, as well as dubious prospects for the few “achievements” that the administration claims to have made. Most glaringly, neither of the two principal presidential candidates—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership signed by the United States and eleven other countries on February 4, 2016, even though it has been forcefully promoted by the Obama administration as a landmark trade deal that undergirds America’s strategic pivot to Asia.10

And reminiscent of HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones, court politics at the apex of the ruling dictatorship in North Korea took a brutal turn with the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the regime’s number two man, for treason. North Korea’s supreme leader has ordered the killing of no fewer than seventy officials since he came to power in 2011, according to the South Korean intelligence service. In a particularly disturbing show of Kim Jong-un’s brutality, the country’s defense minister, Hyon Yong Chol, was killed by firing squad using an antiaircraft gun at a military school in front of hundreds of people in Pyongyang on April 30, 2015, after the regime accused him of treason for “dozing off” during a military event.

In addition to reaffirming reports about Kim’s ruthlessness and, perhaps, reducing the Obama administration’s strategic patience with Pyongyang, these executions have heightened Beijing’s worries about North Korean stability. One might expect that China’s leadership would be even less willing to take a tough stance with Pyongyang (on, for instance, denuclearization) for fear of further destabilizing its leadership, possibly leading to the collapse of the North Korean state along its border.11 Nevertheless, in (p.19) March 2016 the fifteen-member United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2270, condemning North Korea for its January 6 nuclear test and February 7 missile launch. Negotiated for weeks by American and Chinese officials, the language of the new resolution greatly expands the breadth and depth of previous resolutions (1695, 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094) on North Korea, undermining the nation’s ability to raise money and secure technology and other resources for its nuclear weapons program.12 The resolution’s impact will, however, ultimately depend on the political will of UN member states, particularly China, to enforce implementation.

Returning to the larger point, the magnitude of internal pressures being exerted on—and aggravated by—the political leaders of China, Japan, North Korea, and the United States makes it a good bet that domestic politics will play a significant, if not decisive, role in shaping the patterns of their foreign policies and, by extension, the dynamics of East Asian regional security.

The rest of this chapter unfolds as follows. I begin by exploring the kinds of causal explanations that are classified under the rubric of second-image theories. This is followed by analysis of how these various causal schemes can play themselves out in a regional security setting (in this case, how China’s assertiveness may be the result of any one domestic political factor or a combination of them). Next, the chapter investigates the domestic determinants of state power and interests, with a special focus on nationalism. With respect to China, nationalism interacts with its growing power and status to produce a “double whammy” effect: an increasingly assertive foreign policy regardless of whether its rise continues or stalls. After surveying the various ways that domestic politics can generate aggressive foreign policies that ratchet up interstate conflict, I then consider the potential pacifying effects of domestic politics. The chapter then moves to analysis of how nationalism makes it easier for leaders to mobilize public support for military preparation and sacrifices associated with military buildups (here, nationalism promotes internal balancing behavior).13 Conversely, nationalism and associated historical enmities interact with aspects of regional multipolarity to constrain China’s rivals from aligning with each other to maintain their (p.20) security (here, nationalism inhibits external balancing behavior).14 These “alliance handicaps,” to use George Liska’s term, considerably reduce the structural flexibility typically associated with multipolarity within the Asia-Pacific regional system and thereby explain the puzzling absence of a coalition to counterbalance a rising and increasingly assertive China.15 I conclude with a brief discussion of how a clash of nationalisms in East Asia will likely unfold in the coming decade.

What Are Second-Image Explanations?

Second-image explanations are distinguished from third-image theories in two fundamental ways: they either loosen the third-image assumption of states as unitary-rational actors, opening up the “black box” to focus on what is going on inside the state, or they claim that different regime types or domestic structures cause significant variations in foreign policy responses, such that states should not be treated as billiard balls that respond to external stimuli in precisely the same ways.

When second-image variables define international relations, the overall story of international (or regional) politics will not be simple, straightforward, or even coherent from the big-picture perspective. Instead, international politics will be the fractured product of many individual and often quite complex story lines—some embedded in partisan politics, others in domestic structures and cultural values, and still others in ideas, trials, and experiences that may have occurred decades or even centuries ago.

Sometimes the decisive impact of domestic politics on international relations is obvious. What else could explain, for instance, the annual U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue? At the completion of the most recent discussion, now in its eighteenth round, the United States government claimed to be “deeply concerned” that “Chinese authorities had tried to silence activists by targeting their family members and associates.” Clearly there is no geopolitical reason for U.S. concern about how China treats its dissidents, and no compulsion in the external environment responsible for the Obama administration’s uneasiness, if not alarm, over China’s human rights record. For Chinese government authorities, of course, democratic activism is of great concern because of its potential domestic ramifications. During the conference, the state-run news media featured commentary from the official Xinhua news agency warning that if China embraced the democratic ideas being promoted by its liberal dissidents, the nation would undergo turmoil (p.21) worse than that suffered by the Soviet Union after the collapse of communism; the commentary accused liberal intellectuals of “blatantly inciting the public to serve as cannon fodder for triggering social turmoil in China” and “creating Apocalyptic visions of China’s imminent collapse and vilifying the present socialist system.”16

At other times, the effects of domestic politics are more complex, involving multiple domestic actors and causal chains composed of many links. This is often the case for second-image theories that emphasize the redistributive aspects of grand strategic choices, highlighting the pressures within the state rather than the pushes and pulls outside it. This inside-out approach typical of all domestic politics theories starts with the premise that a leader’s foreign policy choices are often constrained and sometimes distorted by societal interests (e.g., those of bankers, industrialists, merchants, interest groups, and the general public) that have a stake in the nation’s foreign policy.17

Statistical studies have shown that nations undergoing regime transitions from authoritarianism toward democracy are most likely (compared with stable autocracies and stable democracies) to initiate conflict with their neighbors.18 The reason for this rather counterintuitive finding is that democratizing states typically undergo a combustible process of rapid mass participation before effective democratic institutions have emerged to handle the enormous pressures for political participation. With democracy taking place in the streets (akin to mobocracy) rather than within institutionalized channels, elites resort to militant nationalist appeals in an attempt to mobilize and steer mass support without surrendering their grip on power.

We may be seeing just such a dangerous dynamic playing itself out in China over the next decade or so. According to David M. Lampton, China is experiencing a tectonic shift: the pluralization and fracturing of its society, economy, and bureaucracy, making it progressively more challenging for China’s leaders to govern.19 The Beijing government’s job is made all the more difficult by “more densely packed urban populations, rapidly rising aspirations, the spread of knowledge, and the greater ease of coordinating social action” as well as “by the lack of institutions that would articulate (p.22) various interests, impartially adjudicate conflicts among them, and ensure the responsible and just implementation of policy.”20 A China characterized by a weaker state and a stronger but more diffuse society will require substantial political reform that includes more reliable “rule of law” mechanisms to resolve conflicts, accommodate various interests, and distribute scarce resources.

Currently, the Chinese Communist Party legitimizes its rule less on communist principles than on continued prosperity and the avoidance of social chaos, combined with appeals to nationalism. Yet as Aaron Friedberg points out, “If economic progress falters, the present government will have little choice but to lean even more heavily on nationalist appeals as its sole remaining source of support. It may also be inclined to resort to assertive external policies as a way of rallying the Chinese people and turning their energies and frustrations outward, most likely toward Taiwan or Japan or the United States, rather than inward, toward Beijing.”21 This threatening scenario would likely be realized if China continues to pluralize and fracture but fails to build the institutions and norms required for responsible and just government at home and constructive behavior abroad. Indeed, as China goes down this path, the stage will be set for the kind of hypernationalist rhetoric and reckless foreign policies that have taken root in all other great powers similarly afflicted by cartelized politics and fragmented societies.

The Second Image, State Intentions, and Regional Security

In a hypothetical world driven entirely by structural-systemic causes, there would be no uniquely American, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or Swiss explanations for these countries’ behaviors or foreign policy preferences. It is a world driven by massively intense structural incentives and constraints consistent with Arnold Wolfers’s famous “house on fire” and “racetrack” analogies, where external compulsion determines behavior.22 Structural theories of this kind must posit strict situational determinism—a “straitjacket” or “single exit” notion of international structure—that leaves actors with no other choice but to act as they did, such that no outcome can occur other than the one predicted by the theory.23

(p.23) The emergence of powerful aggressors—states that make security scarce and war appear inevitable—raises the temperature to the point where we can speak of compulsion in the external environment. In other words, third-image factors explain why people within the burning house rush to its exits. In terms of international politics, the third image provides a straightforward prediction for how states can be expected to respond to powerful aggressors: they will build arms and form alliances to counterbalance them. Notice that the third image does not tell us how the house got on fire in the first place nor explain the actions of those who do not rush to leave the house, perhaps because they do not perceive it to be on fire. These explanations are to be found in causes that reside within the second and first images.

The second image explains how the house got on fire—that is, why certain states at certain times have expansionist aims and will threaten war to achieve those goals. Because regional security is largely a matter of the intentions of powerful states in the neighborhood and because these intentions are forged by second-image factors, assessments of the degree of security within a region are typically rooted in domestic-level causes. The key questions for regional security are: Do powerful states within the region, especially rising ones, have revisionist aims? Are they limited or unlimited? Are they assuming an aggressive or peaceful posture in their foreign relations? Are their grievances perceived by other powerful states within the region as legitimate or illegitimate? Can they be satisfied peacefully and without harm to the security of others within the region?

To see the significance of domestic politics with respect to how the house gets on fire, consider China’s foreign policy over the past twenty years and its effects on regional security. Starting in the early 1990s, the core tenets of China’s grand strategy emerged from Deng Xiaoping’s famous “lie low, hide our capacities, and bide our time” doctrine. Consistent with this doctrine, Chinese grand strategy sought to reassure other countries about Beijing’s intentions, thereby preempting any counterbalancing motives and actions against China. One of the keys to this strategy was the Chinese government’s effective efforts to ensure that its foreign policy was not driven by emotional nationalist rhetoric.

From 2009 to 2010, however, a consensus emerged among Western pundits that Chinese foreign policy has taken a more strident turn in bilateral, regional, and international contexts. Discussion of China’s rise among both Chinese and foreign observers (especially among U.S. analysts and media) has been dominated by the theme of a newly assertive China—one that as it grows economically and militarily more powerful becomes more comfortable politically in revealing its “true colors.”24 Some claim that China has (p.24) begun to assume an offensive grand strategic posture—one that arguably seeks to expand the nation’s relative power, influence, and status in the world. Moreover, the “assertiveness pundits” claim that the Chinese government has been more willing to follow popular nationalist calls to confront Western powers and adopt tougher measures in maritime territorial disputes with its neighbors.25 Typifying this new assertiveness, in November 2013 China unilaterally declared an Air Defense Identification Zone over an area of the East China Sea that covers the Senkakus, the uninhabited islands administered by Japan but claimed by China, where they are called Diaoyu. The move drew sharp criticism from both Tokyo and Washington. In its annual defense white paper, Japan’s Ministry of Defense warned that China is “attempting to alter the status quo by coercive measures,” including “dangerous acts that could cause unintended consequences,” ratcheting up tensions in the East China Sea that could trigger an unwanted clash.26

Explanations of China’s new assertiveness have focused on both international structure and China’s domestic politics—that is, on both third-image and second-image causes. Regarding international structure, pundits claim that in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Chinese leaders perceived a dramatic shift in the global balance of power—an unprecedented transfer of power and wealth from west to east and south.27 The perceived decline of American power and the onset of a more multipolar world, so the argument goes, have emboldened Chinese leaders to be “more confident in ignoring Deng Xiaoping’s longtime axiom not to treat the United States as an adversary, and in challenging the United States on China’s interests.”28 Here China’s new assertiveness is consistent with the classical realist principle that nations expand their political interests abroad when their relative power increases. Or as Robert Gilpin explains the dynamic correlation between power and the national interest, “The Realist law of uneven growth implies that as the power of a group or state increases, that group or state will be tempted to try to increase its control over the environment. In order to increase its own security, it will try to expand its political, economic, and territorial control, it will try to change the international system in accordance (p.25) with its particular set of interests.”29 In this view, China’s assertiveness is a predictable consequence of its changed (i.e., more exalted) position within the international system.

If China’s continued rise is predicted to cause it to behave more assertively, then naturally we should expect decelerated growth to cause it to be more reserved. This is the basic logic of “if X (growth) then Y (assertiveness); if no X (no growth) then no Y (no assertiveness).” Thus, is it safe to assume that unmanageable official corruption, an aging population, and an unsustainable economic model will slow down China’s economic growth and, consequently, restrain its behavior and moderate its goals? Unfortunately, there is another, more disturbing possibility: rather than moderating Beijing’s assertiveness, economic decline might intensify internal problems, making the Chinese government, for reasons discussed below, more belligerent in its foreign relations and prone to miscalculation. If so, the real danger is not managing China’s rise but adjusting to a “new normal” and weathering the nation’s eventual decline.

The straightforward logic of “if growth causes assertiveness, then decline causes moderation” is confounded by causes rooted in both the second and third images. At the international systemic level of analysis, history is riddled with cases of declining nations lashing out because they perceived long-term trends were against them. At the domestic level, incompetent leaders have routinely whipped up hypernationalism (national paranoia and fear of external enemies) to blunt internal opposition and distract the public’s attention from the regime’s economic mismanagement and other failings. This is the familiar “scapegoat hypothesis” or diversionary war theory, which takes a decidedly second-image view of a nation’s foreign policy. The causal scheme goes essentially as follows: A severe economic crisis or downturn causes social unrest at home. Threatened by mass discontent and antigovernment hostility, the ruling regime tries to shore up its domestic support by searching for enemies (an out-group to target) in an attempt to (1) divert the public’s attention away from the government’s poor performance (its inability to solve the country’s economic troubles) and (2) gain in-group solidarity and a rally-around-the-flag effect. Seen in this light, China’s tough diplomacy stemmed not from confidence in its military and economic strength but from a deep sense of insecurity. As Robert Ross explains, faced with the challenges of “nerve-racking years of financial crisis and social unrest” and “no longer able to count on easy support based on the country’s economic growth, China’s leaders moved to sustain their popular legitimacy by appeasing an (p.26) increasingly nationalist public with gestures of force.”30 Growing unrest and the need to reverse a real crisis of legitimacy gave Beijing “no choice but to appease a growing cadre of hard-line nationalists who wanted to project a tough image of China to the world.”31

A related domestic view emphasizes the rise of Chinese popular nationalism coupled with the declining legitimacy of the ruling regime. Suisheng Zhao, for instance, argues that China’s post-2008 “strident turn” is explained by the convergence of Chinese state nationalism and popular nationalism calling for a more muscular Chinese foreign policy. Zhao notes, “Enjoying an inflated sense of empowerment supported by its new quotient of wealth and military capacities, and terrified of an uncertain future due to increasing social, economic and political tensions at home, the communist state has become more willing to play to the popular nationalist gallery in pursuing the so-called core national interests.”32

Other second-image studies focus on new interest groups, such as large state-owned oil companies, and their incorporation into the foreign policy-making process.33 Still other studies focus on changing civil-military relations in China, suggesting that, in the absence of strong central leaders, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has increased its political influence over the decision-making process.

Nationalism and the Domestic Sources of State Power and Interests

Following the principle of Occam’s razor, third-image theories should always be the analyst’s first cut at a problem because they provide the most parsimonious and generalizable answers to our questions. When and only when third-image explanations (those at the structural-systemic level) fail to account for the behaviors or outcomes under investigation do we have a “puzzle” that likely requires a second-image—or some unit-level (e.g., intrastate)—variable to explain what is going on. As realists and their critics have pointed out, states do not always respond to threats in ways that realist balance-of-power theory predicts. When this occurs, there is good reason to (p.27) suspect that societal constraints and pressures within the state are responsible for the puzzling behavior. Yet causes rooted in domestic politics (also known as the Innenpolitik tradition) are not only useful for explaining behaviors that deviate from realpolitik expectations; they also define and determine the extent of national power and interests, both of which are functions of domestic politics. Indeed, realism, thought by many to be a strictly third-image theory, has always acknowledged the domestic determinants of power and interests. Consider the matter of state power.

A country’s size, population, and abundance of resources tell us something about its potential for power on a regional, continental, or world stage. That said, these measures are often poor predictors of a state’s power trajectory. To be sure, there is some minimum threshold of material resources that a state must possess in order to have a viable chance of achieving some form of hegemony, whether regional, continental, or global. We may conclude, therefore, that a country’s natural endowments will either permit or prevent it from entertaining realistic aspirations for hegemonic (or, simply, great power) status. They do not, however, tell us whether a state will be able to mobilize those resources and do so in a timely manner in order to respond successfully to systemic incentives and opportunities. Nor do they tell us the purposes of state action—that is, whether a nation is willing to pursue a dynamic foreign policy or aspires to some form of political hegemony. For this we need to know something about the internal or domestic makeup of the state; more specifically, we need to know whether or not there are constraints on the development and exercise of the state’s potential power and whether there is a national will to amass power.

Classical and offensive realism assume that states, because they operate within a dangerous and uncertain anarchic realm, maximize their security and power (influence, territory, prestige, etc.).34 Simply put, states expand when they can.35 Part of “when they can” is international: advantageous moments when power realities—such as the opening of a power vacuum or the weakening of a neighbor—allow the state to expand. The other, mostly overlooked, part of “when they can” is domestic: wars are dangerous and costly undertakings, and prudent leaders can only wage them somewhat safely (in terms of the survival of their regimes, regardless of the outcome) and expect victory when their citizens viscerally identify with the territorial (p.28) nation-state—that is, when they perceive the state as the source of both obligations and, as E. H. Carr noted of the late nineteenth century, benefits.36

Consistent with this reasoning, Hans Morgenthau avers, “National character and, above all, national morale and the quality of government, especially in the conduct of foreign affairs, are the most important … ​components of national power.”37 Similarly, Robert Strausz-Hupé concludes, “For the determinants of a state’s behavior in international politics, realists place greater weight than do idealists on non-material factors, such as patriotism and nationalism.”38 The point is that the accumulation and projection of national power depend on the prior existence of a strong state backed by national will and unity of purpose. National power is partly a matter of territorial size, population, and natural resources. Yet nation-states that are rich in these endowments are not always powerful; a state is only as strong as its ability to extract resources from its society.39 When we explore the internal workings of states that have failed to reach their full power potential, we therefore typically see domestic rot and underdevelopment due to political instability, high debt, mismanagement, corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, and deep ethnic, religious, and regional cleavages—all of which combine to prevent the state, despite its relative abundance of material resources, from extracting and building its capabilities. This rot from within partly explains why we do not see hegemonic bids in the former Third World despite the fact that there is no shortage of eligible candidates.40

All of which is to say that the domestic-level counterpart to structural realism, especially in an age of mass politics, is nationalism. Arising in response to the problems of modernity, nationalism fastened on immutable cultural attributes as the bedrock of a new identity that would endure in times of rapid change. Nationalism, whether as a movement or an ideology, functions, according to John Breuilly, “to bind together people in a particular territory in an endeavor to gain and use state power.”41 Nationalism is, “above and beyond all else, about politics and that politics is about power. (p.29) Power, in the modern world, is principally about control of the state. The central task is to relate nationalism to the objectives of obtaining and using state power.”42 One could not provide a better description of realism at the level of domestic politics.43 Nationalism is a natural complement to structural realist theory, its domestic-level counterpart.44 The notion of a constant struggle among nations over issues of power, security, and prestige that animates realism is in no small part a consequence of nationalism, which “fuels interstate rivalry and by its sharp delineation of in- and out-groups, abets status rivalry, accentuates stereotyping, and deepens and perpetuates perceived grievances.”45

Nationalism and Historical Legacies

Sometimes nationalism—and here I mean not political movements seeking to create nation-states but rather the assertive foreign policies of governments to embellish state power and the formation of public opinion in support of such policies—may be understood as the domestic counterpart of structural realism. At other times it is an unintended consequence of greedy domestic interests fighting over the redistributive issues raised by grand strategy. And still other times, nationalism is a direct outgrowth of national historical legacies.

Chinese nationalism is very much a product of the country’s historical legacy “of a long and glorious past, unjust treatment at the hands of foreigners from 1840 to 1949 (and beyond), a desire to regain international respect and equality, an imperative for territorial reunification, and a wish to reaffirm their collective greatness as a people and nation.”46 A shared sense of shame and humiliation with respect to China’s experience of having been a playground of foreign (Western and Japanese) intervention and encroachment is a particularly potent driver of Chinese nationalism and its current behavior.47 Indeed, shame has been a stimulant, a call to action, for generations of (p.30) Chinese leaders and intellectuals. Though it may sound odd to most Western ears, feeling shame was (and remains) the path to escape the bitter reality of China’s humiliating past. “To feel shame is to approach courage,” reads an inscription in the Temple of Tranquil Seas in Nanjing, where China signed one of its most unequal treaties with a foreign power. China “carries the self-image of a ‘victim nation,’ albeit a nation with aspirations finally on a path toward greatness restored. This victim complex, coupled with China’s aspirations and growing power, creates a sense of entitlement—a combination that makes Beijing prickly in its dealing with the United States” and its neighbors.48

We see this cantankerous and touchy mood not only in Beijing’s increasingly tough diplomacy but in the violent demonstrations over the past several years staged by Chinese nationalists against Japanese companies with operations in China, causing some of those companies to relocate to Vietnam. Today, more than ever, Chinese public displays of nationalism and outrage—whether set off by perceived unfair treatment by the West, U.S.–South Korea naval exercises, or insults from the Japanese—appear genuine rather than manufactured. Moreover, whereas nationalism was traditionally confined primarily to young Chinese and to some soldiers in the PLA, it has spread to Chinese businesspeople, academics, and elite politicians.49 This diffusion of Chinese nationalism is the product of China’s rise and its domestic political system becoming more participative, with different factions fighting among each other, and China’s public sphere growing more dynamic, fueled by the Internet and social media. “Beyond the party’s control,” notes Jayshree Bajoria, “the emergence of the Internet in the last two decades has given nationalists more power to vent their anger after particular incidents. It has also brought the huge Chinese diaspora in places like Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Europe, and North America, into closer contact with those residing within China’s borders,” facilitating the continuous flow and escalation of nationalist rhetoric and propaganda.50 And because social media can be used to organize large-scale, nationalist protests in Beijing and other cities against foreign governments, the continued expansion of information technologies throughout the population promises to accentuate the role of nationalism in Chinese policymaking; it also threatens to raise Chinese nationalism to dangerous and unstable levels of hypernationalism.51

(p.31) Given China’s determination to avenge its past, there is every reason to expect that Chinese nationalism will continue to grow in lockstep with the country’s increased power. This phenomenon is already evident among Chinese policymakers, military officials, and average citizens. The consensus is that China must eventually become more internationally assertive to the point where it, like the United States, is willing to intervene in the domestic affairs of other countries to protect its far-flung interests abroad.52 Moreover, some suggest that the goal of global dominance lies at the core of China’s journey from humiliation to rejuvenation. The notion of national rejuvenation, according to the conservative Chinese analyst Yan Xuetong, “conjures ‘the psychological power’ associated with China’s rise ‘to its former world status.’ The concept assumes both that China is recovering its natural position and that this means being the ‘number one nation in the world.’”53

Some prominent Japanese and Indian observers, however, believe that Chinese nationalism and the growing extroversion of its foreign policy recall Nazi Germany’s quest for lebensraum and are similarly driven by a view of the superiority of the Chinese race. Along these lines, Shinzo Abe, in an address delivered to a Washington think tank in October 2010, said that “China’s military strategy has rested on the concept of a ‘strategic frontier’” since the 1980s, adding, “In a nutshell, this very dangerous idea posits that borders and exclusive economic zones are determined by national power, and that as long as China’s economy continues to grow, its sphere of influence will continue to expand. Some might associate this with the German concept of ‘lebensraum.’”54 Likewise, a veteran Indian journalist, Rajinder Puri, called China “a corporate version of Nazi Germany” and posed the question, “Is Nazi China Emerging?”55 There is little wonder that these perceptions come from Japanese and Indian sources, two countries most sensitive to and potentially harmed by China’s growth in power. This raises the fundamental question, are these perceptions being driven by domestic politics inside China (second-image causes) or by changes in the balance of power (third-image causes)? Or, alternately, are third-image variables causing changes in China’s domestic politics and shifting the tone of its diplomatic rhetoric in an increasingly nationalist direction (the second image (p.32) reversed)? The next section discusses the second image reversed in a more benign light.

Domestic Politics and Liberal Cosmopolitanism

Thus far I have argued that the intentions and goals of states are largely a function of second-image variables. Domestic politics can explain how nationalist urges sometimes compel the state to accumulate power in a way that overrides prudent foreign policy, resulting in imperial overstretch and self-encirclement. This is a decidedly realist version of domestic politics. On the more positive side, second-image causes are also at work when domestic economic interests quell passions that seek to gin up nasty international politics—that is, when business interests tip the balance of forces within their respective countries toward those in favor of peaceful conflict resolution. This is the familiar “economic interdependence” argument rooted in nineteenth-century Manchester liberalism about how international economic relations affect domestic politics, which, in turn, recast national interests in a more pacific light.

Ironically, these peaceful “political” effects of trade are fully evident in Beijing’s avowed reluctance to mix politics with economics in its relations with other countries. For instance, at the height of the anti-Japanese riots of 2005, as nationalist Chinese demonstrators were calling for a boycott of Japanese products and demanding that the Ministry of Railways not import Japanese bullet train technology, minister of commerce Bo Xilai admonished the rioters for linking economic issues with political and diplomatic ones. In a globalized economy, he argued, a boycott of Japanese products would wind up hurting China: “Boycotting products [of another country] will be detrimental to the interests of the producers and consumers of both countries…. ​This will hurt our cooperation and [economic] development with other countries.”56 Here the Chinese Communist Party emphasized the country’s gains from trade to defuse a malicious and vindictive political atmosphere. In August 2012 an op-ed in China Daily similarly warned, “Blindly boycotting Japanese goods by giving way to sentiments could harm our own industries and exports, and reduce employment.”57 Indeed, Japan remains China’s largest source of imports and foreign investment; take away this Japanese input and China’s export markets collapse. Thus, if the theory of economic interdependence is correct, the logic of “mutual (p.33) assured production” will continue to limit conflict between China and Japan.58

During the 1960s and 1970s, studies of international interdependence focused exclusively on ways that greater economic links among countries altered the nature of world politics by changing the context and alternatives facing countries.59 Beginning in the late 1970s, a new but related literature argued that international forces could decisively shape not only the external environment in which countries operate but also the internal politics of states. By affecting the interests, power, and coalitions that form in domestic politics, international interdependence exerts a significant influence on the internal politics, and hence on the foreign policies and definition of interests, of countries both large and small. This is what IR theorists call a “second-image reversed” version of the relationship between internal and external politics—one that is not simply an inside-out view but rather follows an outside-inside-out logic.60

In his influential work National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade, Albert Hirschman described such a process in terms of the political influence effect of trade. Simply put, large and growing trade relations between big and small states will eventually change the way the smaller state conceives of its national interests, which will gradually and over time converge with those of its larger partner. Business groups, Hirschman observed, “will exert a powerful influence in favor of a ‘friendly’ attitude toward the state” upon which their economic interests depend.61 On precisely how trade relations bring about foreign policy convergence, Jonathan Kirshner notes that (p.34) “when these relationships are sustained, and especially when they involve expanding sectors of the economy, over time the reshuffling of power, interests, and incentives among firms, sectors, and political coalitions will increasingly reflect these new realities. Those that favor warm relations will be empowered, and the trajectory of the ‘national interest’ remolded.”62 Of course, the warming effects of economic interdependence do not always triumph, as World War I infamously confirmed. But they do raise the costs of letting emotions steer the ship of state.

To Balance or Bandwagon?

If trade patterns largely determine countries’ foreign policies, then states in East Asia might be expected to bandwagon with China.63 Then again, the opposite might happen. The claim that trade “multiplies the occasions for conflicts that may promote resentment and even war” has been made often enough by self-proclaimed realists.64 Thus, Dale Copeland points out, “interdependence—meaning mutual dependence and thus vulnerability—gives states an incentive to initiate war, if only to ensure continued access to necessary materials and goods.”65 More generally, realists claim that economic interdependence exerts only weak effects on states, “sometimes good, providing the benefits of divided labor, mutual understanding, and cultural enrichment, and sometimes bad, leading to protectionism, mutual resentment, conflict, and war.”66 The effects of economic interdependence are weak because, like politics, all economics is local. Even in today’s global economy, “protectionism is alive and well,” assert Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini, because leaders well understand that “there is no collective economic security in a globalized economy,” and so they “must worry first and foremost about growth and jobs at home.”67 No matter how intense the constraints imposed on governments by the logic of globalization, domestic (p.35) politics in the economic sphere reign supreme—at least, during normal times.68 If and when an external threat emerges, however, national economic policy becomes too serious a business to be steered either by the impersonal forces of the global market or by the interest-group politics characteristic of a functioning laissez-faire society.69 Rather, the potential incompatibility of public and private interests compels the state to intervene when the interests of domestic actors diverge from its own and those of the nation as a whole.70

If, as realists contend, issues of national security more than those of commerce drive countries’ foreign policies, then we might expect states in East Asia to start balancing aggressively against China. Arguing that China’s neighbors are more leery of its military rise than they are enticed by the potential economic benefits of foreign policy cooperation, Robert Ross finds that “economic capabilities alone are insufficient to generate accommodation” among dominant and subordinate states.71 And thus, as China’s military strength and power projection capabilities grow, security concerns among countries doing business with China, Ross predicts, will increasingly outweigh the benefits of trade, making states in East Asia more likely to balance than to accommodate China.

At this point in time, the debate over whether countries in East Asia will balance against or bandwagon with China is somewhat miscast. They will do both. In a region of great uncertainty, hedging strategies that combine combative and cooperative aspects will prevail.72 The more central question is, can a regional system composed of states rationalized by nationalism be anything other than an inherently bellicose one?

Nationalism and Internal Balancing against China

According to structural realism, all states derive a general strategic interest from the structural condition of anarchy in counterbalancing the growing (p.36) power of a neighboring rival—especially one that appears to be bidding for regional domination. Such systemic pressures, however, must be filtered through intervening variables at the unit level. This is why neoclassical realists stress the influence of domestic politics on states’ ability and willingness to undertake balancing policies. Some unit-level factors assist balancing behaviors; others impede them.

The few studies that explicitly examine the impact of nationalism on balancing find that the two phenomena complement each other. Several scholars go so far as to posit nationalism as a necessary condition for balancing behavior. For instance, Steve Chan opines, “It is not difficult to imagine that whenever and wherever sovereignty and nationalism have receded (as in contemporary Western Europe) or have never taken root (as in international systems in the pre-modern era), the motivation for undertaking balancing behavior would be more muted if not entirely removed. Conversely, wherever nationalism and sovereignty still hold strong sway (such as in contemporary East Asia), balancing behavior should be more likely.”73

Nationalism exerts profound effects on various pivotal aspects of international politics that are essential to the realist enterprise. Key for our present purposes is nationalism’s role in extracting resources from society to enhance state power. Leaders use nationalism to mobilize public support for military preparation and sacrifices. Indeed, the theory that states purposefully foster nationalism to facilitate internal balancing may be generalized to apply “to any security competition that involves ‘mass mobilization,’ that is, requires of society a large-scale financial, organizational, and industrial effort to produce a great military force of any kind, on sea or even in the air as well as on land.”74 Moreover, as Zoltán Búzás points out, “nationalism seems expedient for mitigating the domestic impediments to effective balancing. Through appeals to shared collective identity and common interests in the security of state and nation, nationalism can alleviate domestic causes of underbalancing, such as domestic fragmentation.”75

Until 2013, Japanese military policy in response to the rising Chinese threat could be characterized as underbalancing, defined as a situation in which threatened countries either (1) fail to recognize a clear and present danger; or, more typically, (2) simply do not react to it; or, more typically still, (3) respond in paltry and imprudent ways.76 Japan falls mostly into the third (p.37) category. As Christopher Hughes noted in 2012, the reliance of Japan’s grand strategy on the United States “has merely delayed addressing the long-term challenges of a rising China, Korean Peninsula instability, developments in East Asian regionalism, and a multipolarizing international system. Moreover, Japan’s dependence on the United States is likely to be unsustainable in any case, as U.S. power progressively wanes in the Asia-Pacific region, thus only enhancing Japan’s desperation that it has been constrained from fully articulating a complementary or alternative grand strategy.”77

Meanwhile, China has been operating under the presumption of maritime military clashes, modernizing its equipment, bolstering its fleet of new lightweight warships, and preparing to launch its first domestically built aircraft carrier in the early 2020s.78 These are worrying developments for Japan. Though Tokyo increasingly fears that Beijing could achieve military superiority, Japan is saddled with a stagnating economy, making it difficult for the country to compete with China in a real arms race.79

Recently, however, there are signs that Japan is shifting from a restrained hedging posture to one—in accordance with the predictions of structural realism—that looks more like “internal” balancing. The key domestic factor facilitating this shift in grand strategy is the resurgent nationalism of Japanese politics.80 For almost seven decades, Japan’s pacifist public opinion appeared as an immutable roadblock, obstructing the grander ambitions of policymakers who would otherwise push outward Japan’s military role.81 To override these antimilitaristic norms, the Abe administration has leaned on aggressive nationalism to garner domestic support for its systematic dismantlement of the postwar constraints on Japan’s exercise of military power, including breaches in 2014 of the ban on the exercise of collective self-defense, (p.38) in large part in reaction to Sino-Japanese tensions.82 Abe and his allies—pro-American conservative nationalists—want Japan to become a more reliable ally of the United States by ending the era of pacifism and taking on more of the military responsibilities that the United States expects of Japan.

In addition to renascent Japanese nationalism, public opinion data suggests that a “new” nationalism is on the rise in South Korea, encouraging the country to adopt a more assertive posture and to play a more central role in East Asian affairs. According to a survey conducted by the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, South Koreans expect China to overtake the United States as the most influential country in the world within a decade. More interesting is just how confident South Koreans are of their own nation. Over the next ten years, they expect South Korea’s influence to surpass that of Japan and even to rival that of Russia, requiring a structural reorganization of East Asia that gives the Republic of Korea a more prominent role.83 As Steven Denney and Karl Freidhoff point out, “The growing confidence among Koreans should be carefully watched, because as the confidence of the general population grows, the South Korean government will carry out policies that act on this confidence.”84

Structural and Unit-Level Barriers to External Balancing

The question remains, however, why Japan has not formed a tight defensive alliance with South Korea against China and, possibly, North Korea. South Korea and Japan are both threatened by a more powerful and still growing regional rival, China, which neither can counterbalance solely by its own internal means. Both countries, of course, have a bilateral alliance with the United States, which is militarily stronger than China, and such an alliance may be enough to balance China. That said, there has been wide recognition of emerging global multipolarity among Japan’s political leaders, who not only perceive the decline of Japan and the United States relative to China but also strongly accept “the ‘rise of the rest,’ in the shape of India, a resurgent Russia, a stronger South Korea, and, further afield, Brazil and a more integrated European Union.”85 These changes in the external environment—the passing from U.S. unipolarity to a more evenly distributed multipolar balance of power—provide powerful incentives for Japan and South Korea (p.39) to aggregate their capabilities as a counterweight to China’s growing military strength. Yet there is no discernable movement in that direction, despite strong urgings by the United States “for closer cooperation and better relations between our allies—Japan and South Korea.”86

The reason why China’s rise and associated muscle flexing has not translated into a willingness on the part of South Korea to reconsider its cold shoulder toward Japan—and thereby allow the three allies to beef up their regional security—resides in long-held resentments that date back to Japan’s wartime occupation of South Korea. It is a vivid example of how unit-level factors can limit the attractiveness of certain alliances that would otherwise be made for purely strategic interests rooted in system structure. The key point is that the apparent alliance flexibility that derives from the wealth of physical alternatives that are, in theory, available under a multipolar structure (as in the Asia-Pacific region) should not be confused with the actual alternatives that are politically available to states within the system given their particular interests and affinities.87

This dearth of actual alternatives under multipolarity is a function of what are called alliance handicaps—that is, various impediments in the form of constraints rooted in ideologies, personal rivalries, national hatreds, and ongoing territorial disputes—to alignments that would otherwise be forged in response to immediate strategic interests.88 These various inhibitions that in practice make alliance alternatives scarce are important because, for a multipolar balance-of-power system to operate properly, states cannot be so limited by alliance handicaps that they are unable to follow the systemic imperative to pool their resources against a dangerous shared threat—that is, to align and realign in response to shifts in power that threaten their security.89 To an arguably unprecedented degree, alliance handicaps abound in East Asia, where nationalism, maritime and border disputes, fears of entrapment (e.g., with Taiwan in a war against China, with South Korea in a war against North Korea, etc.), competing ideologies, and especially historical (p.40) legacies have prevented virtually any and all possible combinations of Beijing’s neighbors from forming a coalition against a rising China.

A Clash of Nationalisms

As its oil platforms drill in disputed waters, China no longer speaks the language of “quiet rise.” Rather, Xi Jinping’s self-assured foreign policy stimulates fear in Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, and Vietnam. Nationalism is on the rise in the Asia-Pacific region, and it will engender discourses and practices within China that work to undermine the legitimacy of the established order. This will be true whether China’s relative power continues to grow, stalls, or—worse still—contracts. Mounting nationalism within the Asia-Pacific region will also promote internal balancing among Beijing’s neighbors—perhaps engendering spiraling arms competitions—but will, along with other alliance handicaps, inhibit their ability and desire to align with each other against China.

Rather than expecting current economic synergies and political accommodations to usher in full-blown policy convergence, warm political relations, and further steps toward regional integration, East Asia is more likely to witness a situation of (at best) peaceful coexistence in the form of a cold peace. But while the region’s conflicts will most likely continue to simmer, they will not reach a boiling point. Outside the remote possibility of land warfare on the Korean Peninsula, East Asia’s maritime geography argues in favor of naval competition but militates against land invasions and occupations. Because of what John Mearsheimer calls the “stopping power of water” and the fact that East Asia is a seascape,90 and Robert Kaplan notes that “the spaces between the principal nodes of population are overwhelmingly maritime,”91 the region will likely avoid the kind of great military conflagrations that took place on dry land in the twentieth century—even as heightened nationalism continues to fuel tensions and disorder.


(1.) Amrita Narlikar, “Introduction: Negotiating the Rise of New Powers,” International Affairs 89, no. 3 (2013): 567.

(2.) Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979), 131.

(3.) Andrew Moravcsik, “Introduction: Integrating International and Domestic Theories of International Bargaining,” in Double-Edged Diplomacy: International Bargaining and Domestic Politics, ed. Peter B. Evans, Harold K. Jacobson, and Robert D. Putnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 9.

(4.) See, for instance, Shaun Breslin, “China and the Global Order: Signalling Threat or Friendship?” International Affairs 89, no. 3 (2013): 615–34.

(5.) See Gregory Chin and Ramesh Thakur, “Will China Change the Rules of Global Order?” Washington Quarterly 33, no. 4 (2010): 119–38.

(6.) Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, received a suspended death sentence for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.

(7.) See David Pilling, Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival (New York: Penguin, 2014); and Margarita Estévez-Abe, “Feeling Triumphalist in Tokyo: The Real Reasons Nationalism Is Back in Japan,” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 3 (2014): 165.

(8.) Bill Emmott’s The Sun Also Sets was a runaway best seller in Japan when the Japanese translation first appeared in 1991. Unlike most “scholarly” observers, normal Japanese citizens rightly sensed that something was amiss. See Bill Emmott, The Sun Also Sets: The Limits to Japan’s Economic Power (New York: Touchstone, 1989).

(9.) Mark Leonard, “Why Convergence Breeds Conflict: Growing More Similar Will Push China and the United States Apart,” Foreign Affairs 92, no. 5 (2013): 130–31.

(10.) See Howard Koplowitz, “TPP Agreement: Where Do 2016 Presidential Candidates Stand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?” International Business Times, May 12, 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/tpp-agreement-where-do-2016-presidential-candidates-stand-trans-pacific-partnership-1918946; “TPP Trade Deal ‘a Disaster,’ Other Countries will ‘Dupe’ US—Donald Trump,” RT, May 11, 2015, https://www.rt.com/usa/257377-tpp-deal-trump-criticism/; Dan Merica and Eric Bradner, “Hillary Clinton Comes Out against TPP Trade Deal,” CNN Politics, October 7, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/07/politics/hillary-clinton-opposes-tpp/index.html.

(11.) Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi stressed that China would never allow chaos or conflict on the Korean Peninsula, asserting that “China is serious on this.” Wang Yi, quoted in Michael R. Gordon, “China Set to Press North Korea Further on Nuclear Aims, Kerry Says,” New York Times, February 15, 2014.

(12.) Specifically, the resolution calls for inspecting all cargo going in and out of the country, banning all weapons trade, and expanding the list of individuals confronting sanctions. See Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols, “UN Imposes Harsh New Sanctions on North Korea over Its Nuclear Program,” Reuters, March 3, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-nuclear-un-idUSKCN0W41Z2; Scott A. Snyder, “North Korea: Will the New Sanctions Work? On Paper, They Represent a Significant Increase in Pressure on Pyongyang,” Diplomat, March 6, 2016, http://thediplomat.com/2016/03/north-korea-will-the-new-sanctions-work/.

(13.) States can balance internally through the buildup of their own national and autonomous military capabilities, and externally through coalitions that aggregate their capabilities with those of their allies.

(14.) See Zoltán Búzás, “Nationalism and Balancing: The Case of East Asia,” unpublished manuscript, McGill University Centre for International Peace and Security Studies, 2014.

(15.) George Liska, Nations in Alliance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962).

(16.) Jane Perlez, “Chinese Journalist Detained in Beijing, One Day after Human Rights Talk with U.S.,” New York Times, August 3, 2013.

(17.) See, for instance, Peter Trubowitz, Politics and Strategy: Partisan Ambition and American Statecraft (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).

(18.) Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, “Democratization and the Danger of War,” International Security 20, no. 1 (Summer 1995): 5–38; Edward D. Mansfield and Jack L. Snyder, “Democratic Transitions, Institutional Strength, and War,” International Organization 56, no. 2 (2002): 297–337; and Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005).

(19.) David M. Lampton, “How China Is Ruled: Why It’s Getting Harder for Beijing to Govern,” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 1 (2014): 74–84.

(20.) Ibid., 83.

(21.) Aaron Friedberg, “The Future of U.S.-China Relations: Is Conflict Inevitable?” International Security 30, no. 2 (2005): 30.

(22.) Arnold Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration: Essays on International Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962).

(23.) Spiro J. Latsis, “Situational Determinism in Economics,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 23 (1972): 207–45.

(24.) For examples of this type of commentary, see Michael Swaine, “Perceptions of an Assertive China,” China Leadership Monitor 32 (2010): 10n1.

(25.) For examples, see Alastair Iain Johnston, “How New and Assertive Is China’s New Assertiveness?” International Security 37, no. 4 (2013): 7–48. Johnston challenges the validity of the dominant “new assertiveness” view, which he claims has “gone viral” in the U.S. media, the blogosphere, and in scholarly work.

(26.) Japanese Ministry of Defense, Defense of Japan 2014: Annual White Paper (Tokyo: Japanese Ministry of Defense, 2014), http://www.mod.go.jp/e/publ/w_paper/pdf/2014/DOJ2014_1-1-0_1st_0730.pdf.

(29.) Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 94–95; Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 19–20.

(30.) Robert S. Ross, “The Problem with the Pivot: Obama’s New Asia Policy Is Unnecessary and Counterproductive,” Foreign Affairs 91, no. 6 (2012): 72.

(31.) Ibid., 75.

(32.) Suisheng Zhao, “Foreign Policy Implications of Chinese Nationalism Revisited: The Strident Turn,” Journal of Contemporary China 22, no. 82 (2013): 535.

(33.) See Yan Sun, Chinese National Security Decision-Making: Processes and Challenges (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2013); and Linda Jakobson and Dean Knox, New Foreign Policy Actors in China, SIPRI Policy Paper no. 26 (Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2010), http://books.sipri.org/files/PP/SIPRIPP26.pdf.

(34.) For the power-maximizing assumption of classical realism, see Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 4th ed. (New York: Knopf, 1967). For offensive realism, see John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001).

(35.) Gilpin, War and Change, 23–24, 94–95. For the assumption of influence maximizing as the primary objective of states, and especially great powers, see Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, chap. 2.

(36.) Edward Hallett Carr, Nationalism and After (New York: Macmillan, 1945).

(38.) Robert Strausz-Hupé, Democracy and American Foreign Policy: Reflections on the Legacy of Alexis de Tocqueville (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1995), 85.

(39.) See Randall L. Schweller, “Neoclassical Realism and State Mobilization: Expansionist Ideology in the Age of Mass Politics,” in Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy, ed. Steve Lobell, Jeffrey Taliaferro, and Norrin Ripsman (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 227–50.

(40.) See, for example, Julius O. Ihonvbere, “Nigeria as Africa’s Great Power: Constraints and Prospects for the 1990s,” International Journal 46, no. 4 (1991): 510–35; and Mohammed Ayoob, “India as Regional Hegemon: External Opportunities and Internal Constraints,” International Journal 46, no. 4 (1991): 420–48.

(41.) John Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 381.

(42.) Ibid., 1.

(43.) Oddly, the literature on nationalism rarely, if ever, mentions political realism. For instance, in Nationalism and the State, Breuilly relates nationalism to functionalist, communications, Marxist, identity, and psychological approaches. He never once mentions realism, even though his account of nationalism is rooted in state power.

(44.) See John J. Mearsheimer, “Kissing Cousins: Nationalism and Realism,” unpublished manuscript, Yale Workshop on International Relations, May 5, 2011.

(45.) Steve Chan, Looking for Balance: China, the United States, and Power Balancing in East Asia (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 65.

(46.) David M. Lampton, Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China Relations, 1989–2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 251.

(47.) See, for instance, Zheng Wang, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

(49.) Robert S. Ross, “The Domestic Sources of China’s ‘Assertive Diplomacy,’ 2009–10: Nationalism and Chinese Foreign Policy,” in China across the Divide: The Domestic and Global in Politics and Society, ed. Rosemary Foot (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 79.

(50.) Jayshree Bajoria, “Nationalism in China,” Council on Foreign Relations, April 23, 2008, http://www.cfr.org/china/nationalism-china/p16079.

(53.) Yan Xuetong, quoted in Jacqueline Newmyer Deal, “China’s Nationalist Heritage,” National Interest 123 (2013), 49.

(54.) Hudson Institute, “Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on U.S.-Japanese Relations, the Capital Hilton, Washington DC, October 15, 2010: Transcript,” http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.hudson.org/files/publications/AbeEventTranscript.pdf.

(55.) Rajinder Puri, “Is Nazi China Emerging?” Indian Defence Review, September 25, 2011, http://www.indiandefencereview.com/spotlights/is-nazi-china-emerging/; Deal, “China’s Nationalist Heritage,” 45.

(56.) Bo Xilai, quoted in Willy Lam, “As China’s Foreign Policy Hardens, It Is Beijing versus All,” AsiaNews.it, July 4, 2012, http://www.asianews.it/news-en/As-China’s-foreign-policy-hardens,-it-is-Beijing-versus-all-25192.html.

(57.) Op-ed, China Daily, quoted in Richard Katz, “Mutual Assured Production: Why Trade Will Limit Conflict between China and Japan,” Foreign Affairs 92, no. 4 (2013): 24.

(59.) Richard Cooper, The Economics of Interdependence (New York: McGraw-Hill for the Council on Foreign Relations, 1968); Richard Cooper, “Economic Interdependence and Foreign Policy in the Seventies,” World Politics 24, no. 2 (1972): 159–81; Richard Rosecrance and Arthur Stein, “Interdependence: Myth or Reality?” World Politics 26, no. 4 (1973): 1–27; Peter J. Katzenstein, “International Interdependence: Some Long-Term Trends and Recent Changes,” International Organization 29, no. 4 (1975): 1021–34; and Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977). See also Karl W. Deutsch and Alexander Eckstein, “National Industrialization and the Decline of the International Economic Sector, 1890–1957,” World Politics 13, no. 2 (1961): 267–99. Deutsch and Eckstein found that the ratio of foreign trade to national income for seventeen countries peaked in 1913, sharply declined in the 1930s, and did not return to pre-1914 levels despite all efforts to expand international trade in the 1950s. They concluded that the foreign trade ratio may rise during the early stages of industrialization but decline significantly at a later intermediate stage, possibly rising once again at very high levels of economic development.

(60.) Peter Gourevitch, “The Second Image Reversed: The International Sources of Domestic Politics,” International Organization 32, no. 4 (1978): 881–912; Peter J. Katzenstein, ed., Between Power and Plenty: Foreign Economic Policies in Advanced Industrial States (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978); Robert O. Keohane and Helen V. Milner, eds., Internationalization and Domestic Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

(61.) Albert O. Hirschman, National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980 [1945]), 29.

(62.) Jonathan Kirshner, “The Consequences of China’s Economic Rise for Sino-U.S. Relations: Rivalry, Political Conflict, and (Not) War,” in China’s Ascent: Power, Security, and the Future of International Politics, ed. Robert S. Ross and Zhu Feng (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008), 242. See also Rawi Abdelal and Jonathan Kirshner, “Strategy, Economic Relations, and the Definition of National Interests,” Security Studies 9, no. 1 (1999): 123–62.

(63.) See Sarah Kreps and Gustavo Flores-Macías, “The Foreign Policy Consequences of Trade: China’s Commercial Relations with Africa and Latin America, 1992–2006,” Journal of Politics 75, no. 2 (2013): 357–71.

(64.) Kenneth N. Waltz, “Structural Realism after the Cold War,” International Security 25, no. 1 (2000): 14.

(65.) Dale C. Copeland, “Economic Interdependence and War: A Theory of Trade Expectations,” International Security 20, no. 4 (1996): 6.

(67.) Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini, “A G-Zero World: The New Economic Club Will Produce Conflict, Not Cooperation,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 2 (2011): 7.

(68.) The classic study is E. E. Schattschneider, Politics, Pressures and the Tariff: A Study of Free Private Enterprise in Pressure Politics, as Shown in the 1929–1930 Revision of the Tariff (New York: Prentice Hall, 1935).

(69.) For an impressive rebuttal to this claim, see Kevin Narizny, The Political Economy of Grand Strategy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007).

(70.) Jonathan Kirshner, “The Political Economy of Realism,” in Unipolar Politics: Realism and State Strategies after the Cold War, ed. Ethan Kapstein and Michael Mastanduno (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 73–75. Kirshner goes on to say that, according to realists, states “aim to establish and preserve their independence from three encroachments: those of particular domestic interests, other states, and economic forces” (75).

(71.) Robert Ross, “Balance of Power Politics and the Rise of China: Accommodation and Balancing in East Asia,” Security Studies 15, no. 3 (2006): 368.

(72.) For hedging strategies, see Øystein Tunsjø, Security and Profit in China’s Energy Policy: Hedging against Risk (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013).

(74.) Barry R. Posen, “Nationalism, the Mass Army, and Military Power,” International Security 18, no. 2 (1993): 122–23.

(75.) Búzás, “Nationalism and Balancing,” 2. For underbalancing, see Randall L. Schweller, “Unanswered Threats: A Neoclassical Realist Theory of Underbalancing,” International Security 29, no. 2 (2004): 159–201; and Randall L. Schweller, Unanswered Threats: Political Constraints on the Balance of Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).

(77.) Christopher W. Hughes, “The Democratic Party of Japan’s New (but Failing) Grand Security Strategy: From ‘Reluctant Realism’ to ‘Resentful Realism’?,” Journal of Japanese Studies 38, no. 1 (2012): 139.

(78.) Rajaram Panda notes with alarm China’s expansion of military power, pointing out that China’s defense budget has quadrupled in the past decade, reaching 808.2 billion yuan (about ¥12.9 trillion) for fiscal 2014, up 12 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, Japan’s defense budget stood at ¥4.78 trillion in fiscal 2014, an increase of 2.2 percent year-on-year from the ¥4.68 trillion of the previous fiscal year. See Rajaram Panda, “Japan’s Defense White Paper 2014 and Coping with the China ‘Threat,’” IPRIS Viewpoints 150 (2014), http://www.ipris.org/php/download.php?fid=797.

(79.) See the comments by Alexandra Sakaki in Rodion Ebbighausen, “Japan Concerned over China’s ‘Profoundly Dangerous’ Acts,” Deutsche Welle, August 6, 2014, http://www.dw.de/japan-concerned-over-chinas-profoundly-dangerous-acts/a-17834009?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf.

(80.) See Yew Meng Lai, Nationalism and Power Politics in Japan’s Relations with China: A Neoclassical Realist Interpretation (New York: Routledge, 2014).

(81.) See Paul Midford, Rethinking Japanese Public Opinion and Security: From Pacifism to Realism? (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011).

(83.) Steven Denney and Karl Freidhoff, “South Korea and a New Nationalism in an Era of Strength and Prosperity,” PacNet no. 75 (Honolulu, HI: Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2013), http://csis.org/files/publication/Pac1375_0.pdf.

(86.) Vice president Joe Biden to Japanese prime minister Shinzō, quoted in Yuka Hayashi, Jeremy Page, and Jonathan Cheng, “Biden’s Mission: Unite Japan, South Korea,” Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2013.

(87.) See Glenn H. Snyder, Alliance Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), 148–49.

(88.) Fear of entrapment in a costly and unwanted war by virtue of an alliance tie can also impose considerable restrictions on the choice of alliance partners and, by extension, on the flexibility of alliances in a multipolar system. See Snyder, Alliance Politics; and Zeev Maoz, Paradoxes of War: On the Art of National Self-Entrapment (Boston: Unwin Hymann, 1990), chap. 7.

(89.) Robert Jervis, “From Balance to Concert: A Study of International Security Cooperation,” in Cooperation under Anarchy, ed. Kenneth A. Oye (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 60.

(91.) Robert D. Kaplan, Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific (New York: Random House, 2014), 5.